Entitled This Is My Home and highlighted in this evening’s episode of Dispatches on Channel 4, CCLC’s report explores the challenges on young people’s lives of living with uncertain immigration status and the impact on this group of children as the UK leaves the EU.
Approximately 120,000 children in the UK are undocumented, 65,000 of whom were born here. Without documentation, a young person cannot work, open a bank account or access sources of support such as housing, and is cut off from college and university. They are left vulnerable to poverty and at risk from exploitation.
Obstacles to children achieving permanent status which This is My Home highlights include lack of free and quality legal representation, unaffordable application fees with very limited fee waivers, and complex law and policy.
The report’s author and CCLC’s Head of Policy and Programmes, Kamena Dorling, said: “Thousands of undocumented children and young people will have grown up in the UK, have been educated here, and will think of themselves as British. Even if they manage to make an immigration application, they will usually only be granted 2 ½ years leave and will have to wait ten years before they can apply for indefinite leave to remain.
“During this period they have to make five further applications, and face over £8,000 in fees and charges, while living in a state of insecurity. They are prevented from legally participating in and contributing to the communities in which they live and, in many cases have lived, all their lives.”
Recommendations to improve the lives of undocumented children and young people outlined in This is My Home include:
- A shorter route to permanent status for long resident children and young people and lower application fees
- Better Home Office decision making on children and young peoples’ long residence cases in line with established law
- An urgent review of children and young people’s needs for legal services and at least the reinstatement of legal aid for separated children’s immigration status
- Information for social workers and improved local authority practice through training and designated social care leads.
Dr Carol Homden, CBE and Chief Executive of Coram said:
“The rights of all children should be protected and an upheld without exception. As Brexit negotiations commence, and we wait to fully understand the fate of EU children in the UK, it is more important than ever to ensure that children who have grown up here are able to have secure status and build their futures in this country.”